Teenage conventional thinking

Recent research on what teenagers see as, “What makes a good person”. They were asked to rate the qualities of people who were good people. This indicates teenagers are a conventional group of people in these views.

teenagers good side

But this seems incongruent as the teenage stage is often an angry stage of storm and stress. The whole James Dean thing of a rebel without a cause is meant to signify the teenager mindset. Outlaw motor cycle clubs referring to themselves as one percenters in that they do not follow the rules. They are outlaws or see themselves as outside of the law.


All these give the impression of people who don’t play by the rules and are free of normal societal restrictions. They do what they want, when they want and how they want.

Underneath however this could not be further from the truth. The teenager and the criminal personality have a very rigid system and set of rules and they tolerate deviance from those rules much less so than the average adult. They have their own set of rules on how to behave, what to say, how to dress and so forth. And any non compliance with these rules results in quick and often severe sanctions such as excommunication, ostracism or some kind of shaming or social punishment. They are very much inside the law, their own law.

ARCHIV - Mitglieder der Rockergruppe Bandidos warten vor dem Landgericht in Muenster am 10. Juni.2008. Der schleswig-holsteinische Innenminister Klaus Schlie hat zwei Motorradclubs verboten. Betroffen sind die Vereine "Hells Angels MC Charter Flensburg" und "Bandidos MC Probationary Chapter Neumuenster", wie das Innenministerium am Donnerstag, 29. April 2010, mitteilte. (AP Photo/Roberto Pfeil) --- FILE - Members of the Bandidos wait in front of the court in Muenster, western Germany, Tuesday, June 10, 2008. The trial against two murder suspects of the rocker group Bandidos ends today at the district court. The two Bandidos are accused of collective murder of a member of the Hells Angels gang.(AP Photo/Roberto Pfeil)

Some outlaw motorcycle clubs can be distinguished by a “1%” patch worn on the colours. This is said to refer to a comment by the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) that 99% of motorcyclists were law-abiding citizens, implying the last one percent were outlaws.





I have a rule for myself when working with these groups of people. I only spend 50% of the time working with the rebellion. It is very easy to get lost in the rebellion with a teenager. They are used to this. Their parents, teachers and schools seem to only ever talk with them about the rebellion and the problems. They are not used to people engaging with them about their conformity and the conventional mindset they have. Really the insecurity they have about not following the rules.

50% of the time I don’t talk with teenagers about their rebellion. It’s like working with the anorexic. In therapy 50% of the time you don’t talk with them about food and eating. They will not be expecting this.


The rebellious teenager is a conforming individual who has conventional views on how to behave, how to dress and what ‘good’ people do. One needs to not be distracted by the rebellion and get underneath it to this insecure part and work with that. This insecurity keeps them complaint to the rules of the group. As they develop a more solid view of self then they do not need the outside validation of the group to make them feel secure. Rebelling allows them to conform. As the strong need to conform to their groups rules subsides so does the rebellion.

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